The impact of regeneration on people’s health and wellbeing in Glasgow
In this blog post Cat Tabbner reflects on using co-production in community engagement for GoWell, a research programme that has been investigating the impact of regeneration on people’s health and wellbeing in Glasgow.
We had the good fortune to work with a Panel of eighteen citizens and their local groups from our study areas over two years. The idea of a Panel came from spending time meeting community groups and housing associations across fifteen neighbourhoods where GoWell had been researching regeneration. 110 individuals from these groups put precious time aside to speak to me over a cuppa, a walk or during one of their many local activities.
These conversations revealed a common topic - social regeneration. People described social regeneration as working with communities to improve lives, reduce inequalities and improve wellbeing. Spending time with these groups also showed their use of co-production alongside experiential learning, or ‘learning by doing’, to engage and empower their peers.
In response, the research team thought that a Panel of community group members would be a useful way to explore social regeneration and contribute to interpreting and understanding the evidence we have collected. A panel can be an ideal way to explore a topic because it invites a range of views that can be explored in-depth by a group. Since co-production and experiential learning were used by local groups, we thought it made sense to use these practices as a common way of working between the Panel and the research team.
Many groups also commented that they rarely had the chance (due to lack of funds, time and capacity) to visit other neighbourhoods undergoing regeneration. When these opportunities arose it was usually staff, committee members or core volunteers who went. So, in a decision made with these groups we agreed that they would nominate people for the Panel who stood to gain the most – for example, those who were some of the less confident and who had not had the opportunity to see the changes going on in communities across the city. Our joint expectation that this approach would contribute to local groups’ own efforts to strengthen their capacity in the longer term.
Eighteen men and women joined the Panel. Each person had seen many changes happen in their neighbourhoods: demolition, refurbishments to their buildings and changes in their wider areas.The Panel consisted of two phases. In the first phase (May 2015 - February 2016) we co-designed seven community workshops with the Panel. Each workshop was hosted in a different study area and focused on an element of the GoWell research chosen by the Panel. We explored a range of regeneration topics with researchers, housing associations and community-based organisations. You can read more about what we did in each workshop in our annual report. Two Panel members chose to make these workshops count towards their Community Achievement Awards, which were administered by Glasgow Kelvin College.
Immediate differences made by co-production
The Panel said that co-production and experiential learning got them learning from each other, building their knowledge and skills as a group. These approaches led the group to develop values they thought were essential to making the Panel work - kindness, trust …and having fun!
We noticed that the combination of these values and the ways the group used co-production led to signs of empowerment among the Panel:
- voting in a UK General Election for the first time
- completing college qualifications
- using computers (also for the first time) to organise a community screening of a documentary
- helping a GoWell Principle Investigator distil evidence into key points and seeing this be delivered at a Scottish Parliament committee session
This image, co-designed with the Panel, illustrates their journey
And in the longer term…
The second phase (Spring 2016 - September 2017) was an opportunity for the Panel, if they wished, to share their learning from the first phase with their local groups. Ten of the Panel co-designed two learning workshops in GoWell study areas that gave their groups first-hand experiences of the methods they had used, including co-production and experiential learning.
Eight of the Panel chose to then apply their learning to projects with their local groups. Having seen the personal growth gained by the Panel members who had completed Community Achievement Awards in the first phase, all eight individuals also chose to work towards these, using them as a framework to plan, carry out and evaluate projects which included:
- developing a school uniform recycling bank with parents of a local primary school
- increasing the capacity and range of programmes of an arts and crafts group for wellbeing, a men’s wellbeing group and a women’s wellbeing group
- organising gala and open days to recruit new members to clubs and celebrate the longstanding achievements of a health and wellbeing centre.
What this process has brought to GoWell’s research
The Panel’s results mirror the three types of empowerment identified in our earlier GoWell research: an increased ability to influence control on an individual and community level, an increased feeling of being in control, and changes as a result of their actions. We can see that working with the Panel has given us insights that have gone beyond theory to shed light on the practical ways that empowerment can be achieved.
A longer account of the GoWell Panel will be provided in a GoWell Briefing Paper (soon to be published). A toolkit will also be published on the GoWell website which will consist of reports from the Panel learning workshops and resources which describe in depth our methods used to carry out this work.
Scottish Health Council. Participation Toolkit. Available at: http://www.scottishhealthcouncil.org/patient__public_participation/participation_toolkit/users_panels.aspx#.WWTDPITytaQ